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McConnell at his memorabilia store in 1999

The College of Charleston is tearing at the seams as outraged students and alumni protest the selection of its next president – a defender of the Confederacy with a history of championing the Rebel Flag.

The board of trustees’ selection of Republican Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, a Civil War re-enactor who for years led the fight to keep the Confederate flag hanging over South Carolina’s capital building, comes just two years after the college embarked on an ambitious campaign to attract more minority students.

Critics say McConnell’s appointment will tarnish the college’s reputation and hinder efforts to diversify the student body, which with just 6% black students has one of the lowest student diversity rates in the state.

Both the student government and faculty Senate have issued unanimous votes of no-confidence in the school’s board of trustees. The board has not budged, insisting it stands by McConnell’s selection.

Critics of the appointment believe that politics, not credentials, played the biggest role in the selection.

McConnell, who has never worked in higher education, beat out a handful of finalists with extensive experience working in colleges and universities, including University of West Florida Provost Martha Saunders and Dennis Encarnation, a consultant and fellow at Harvard University.

“He’s been a divisive force in South Carolina for a long time,” said the Rev. Joseph Darby, a vice president with the Charleston NAACP, which has joined calls for McConnell’s removal. He called McConnell’s appointment a “sham” and said the selection is a smack in the face to the college and anyone associated with it.

Hundreds have attended protests and rallies on the college’s campus with thousands more signing a petition calling for McConnell’s removal. Student groups have joined forces with local civil rights groups to hold press conferences and to lobby sympathetic members of the state legislature, which is responsible for appointing board members at public colleges.

Read more at MSNBC

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